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Controversial math books get go-ahead

Original post made on Mar 25, 2009

The Menlo Park City School District is going ahead with plans to roll out new math textbooks in the fall, despite the vocal opposition of a group of parents.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:52 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Bob Jones
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 25, 2009 at 2:29 pm

This story covers everything except the actual substance of the controversy. Hundreds of mathematics educators at the university level have publicly raised concerns about Everyday Math. To dismiss them as "wrong" does a great disservice to public debate of this important issue.

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Posted by Earle Jones
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Mar 25, 2009 at 5:48 pm

This is not a comment about the quality of the proposed mathematics book. I just wanted to take exception to the statement, "The choice of a math curriculum needs to be a total community process."

There are many instances where we pay experts to make decisions that are better made by those experts than by the "total community". Selection of a good mathematics text is one. The average opinion of the community, based on its access to Google, may or may not be of value in this judgment. I would go along with the school board.

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Posted by Pierre Fermat
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Bob Jones wrote: "Hundreds of mathematics educators at the university level have publicly raised concerns about Everyday Math."

Please define "mathematics educators." As the term is generally used in my experience, it means people with degrees in mathematics education. Most of those people support programs like EVERYDAY MATHEMATICS. If you mean "hundreds of mathematicians," that's quite a different matter. Similarly, if you mean "hundreds of K-12 math TEACHERS," that, too, would be quite different. If you're going to make this sort of assertion, it would be nice if you could be crystal clear about what you mean. Sources for your claim would be helpful, too.

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Posted by Bob Jones
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 7:12 am

Pierre: Here's a letter from many professors of Mathematics at major universities (Stanford, Cal, UC Santa Barbara, USC, Harvard, ...) to the US Secretary of Education raising concerns about ED Math. These professors teach math to students coming out of the K-12 educational systems that use ED Math.

Web Link

It is appropriate that there be public review at the School Board prior to adoption of a controversial curriculum. The Board's job is to provide oversight of the Administration. Rather than responding to those who are simply asking questions, the School Board is stonewalling. This is undermining the community's confidence in the board, regardless of individual positions on ED Math.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:42 am

Bob - I read the letter you linked to. It appears to be close to ten years old. It also does not contain any criticism or comments directed at "Everyday Mathematics." It only notes that the ED Math series was on a 1999 list put out by the Department of Education as a "promising" text. The letter does raise concerns over several of the other Math texts.

There may be good reasons to like or dislike ED Math over other available materials, but the letter you linked to doesn't seem to be helpful.

Also, my experience as a parent is that the textbook is a whole let less important than the teacher, and any particular shortcoming of a text can be compensated for by a good teacher.

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Posted by Addie Shun
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:43 am

Bob Jones: Are you sure you posted the right link? That's an undated letter (from 1999 or 2000?) that calls out 10 math curricula and makes no specific criticism of Everyday Math. The studies it cites are all from the mid to late 1990s.

The letter closes with: "While we do not necessarily agree with each of the criticisms of the programs described above, given the serious nature of these criticisms by credible scholars, we believe that it is premature for the United States Government to recommend these ten mathematics programs to schools throughout the nation."

What am I missing?

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Posted by Andrea Julian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm

There is a report from the US Dept of Education's What Works Clearinghouse (revised April 2007) about the Everyday Mathematics program. To see this report, go to
Web Link
and click the link to the PDF file at the bottom of the page.

"Sixty-one studies reviewed by the WWC investigated the effects
of Everyday Mathematics. Four studies (Carroll, 1998; Riordan &
Noyce, 2001; Waite, 2000; and Woodward & Baxter, 1997) used
quasi-experimental designs that met WWC standards with reservations.
The remaining fifty-seven studies did not meet WWC
evidence screens."

Thus, the research cited is based on older editions and not on the most recent edition.

"Everyday Mathematics was found to have potentially positive effects on students’ math achievement.

Rating of effectiveness: Potentially positive effects
Improvement index: Average: +6 percentile points
Range: –7 to +14 percentile points"

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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 28, 2009 at 10:50 am

I think the point is that this is a textbook and a teaching philosophy that has created a nationwide controversy

For example: Web Link

It deserves to be discussed in the broader community and the parents concerns addressed before it is implemented by the district.

Our own kids loved Montessori school in PreK to 1st grade, but I would be equally surprised if the school district decided to switch Menlo Park to the Montessori method without an extensive outreach process with the community to make sure that parents understood the reasons for the switch and were comfortable with the philosophy.

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Posted by Jones
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 28, 2009 at 7:01 pm

The truth is, there has never been a program selected and subsequently rejected by so many school districts across America. Where parents hate it, kids hate it, teachers hate teaching it, I don't see how such a program can be the least bit effective.

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Posted by Barry Garelick
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2009 at 6:17 am

Let's take a closer look at the Deparment of Education’s “What Works Clearinghouse” which evaluates research on the various math programs, reviewed 61 Everyday Math studies. The findings: Of those 61 studies, none met evidence standards, 4 met evidence standards with reservations and 57 did not meet evidence screens. Of the remaining four, the WWC found Everyday Mathematics to have potentially positive effects on math achievement based on one study alone: the 2001 Riordan & Noyce study. Just so everyone is on the same page, Pendred Noyce has a vested interest in Everyday Math in that she has formed associations with several reform math initiatives, at least one dedicated to implementation of Everyday Math: COMAP, for which she serves on the Board of Directors.
So, you have an allowable sample size of just one, from what range of data? And this allows people to make any conclusion? Plus I would hardly call the one study independent.

For more recent reviews of Everyday Math, go to the NYCHOLD website:

As far as mathematicians who find the EM program a poor one, count Jim Milgram (Stanford), Hung-Hsi Wu (Berkeley), Richard Askey (Wisconsin), David Klein (Cal State University, Northridge) Wayne Bishop (Cal State U, LA), Stanley Ocken (City University of New York), Steve Wilson (Johns Hopkins), and Wilfried Schmid (Harvard).

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Posted by PV Mom
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 29, 2009 at 2:33 pm

PV Schools adopted Everyday Math about 7 years ago. My experience has been that the teachers are constantly trying to find ways to supplement it. My children moved to different schools in middle school in part due to the weak nature of the math program. Assume that you will need to be working with your kids on the basics -- math facts and computation skills. There is very little repetition or practice in Everyday Math. Good teachers can be successful with this program, but they will need to find additional resources to go along with it.

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Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac staff writer
on Mar 30, 2009 at 11:05 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

This is from the March 29 "Superintendent Update" sent out by Ken Ranella on the Menlo Park City School District's math program:

Mathematics Instructional Program
On March 24th, the Board of Education and the Administration held a study session on the planning of mathematics instruction for the District. Assistant Superintendent Jo Mitchell facilitated the session. Also participating in the discussion were our school principals who have remained highly engaged in the planning process along with the teaching staff during the 1 1/2 year study. David Foster from Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative was also present to review pending initiatives and developments with the Board of Education.

The session focused on the achievement of four important District goals in the area of mathematics:

Ensure that the curriculum design and the instructional practices emphasize all strands of mathematics so that students gain a deep understanding of concepts and the ability to use critical thinking when analyzing and problem solving

Ensure that teachers are prepared to adopt content and best practices by providing opportunities for participation in staff development programs

Strengthen algebraic thinking and reasoning in grades K-8 and increase the percentage of students who are able to meet grade level standards in algebra by eighth grade

Ensure that all students' skills and content understanding increases, including those who are achieving below proficiency
This last December, upon a recommendation of the Administration and the District Mathematics Task Force that included the principals, and representative teachers from each grade level from each school, the Board of Education adopted a new Mathematics textbook program, Everyday Mathematics. During the March 24th meeting, several members of the public expressed concerns to the Board about this adoption.

The District is committed to the ongoing improvement of all its instructional programs. A comprehensive assessment and review of the math adoption was undertaken driven by the goals of our mathematics program. An expanded Fact Sheet [Web Link the math adoption is attached for your review. It outlines the process of the study and describes the rationale for the adoption of Everyday Mathematics. It also includes comments from Encinal and Oak Knoll teachers and administrators that have already used Everyday Mathematics with their fifth grade accelerated math students. We feel that their comments and reflections address many of the concerns that were raised about the program.

The Administration, the teaching staff, and I are confident that Everyday Mathematics will help the District to achieve its goals in the area of mathematics. We look forward to its introduction and will hold information sessions for parents on the new program in the fall.

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Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac staff writer
on Mar 30, 2009 at 11:06 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

Here's that Web link to the district's fact sheet on math: Web Link

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Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2009 at 1:08 pm

You might be interested in the ongoing parent uproar against EDM in Palo Alto :
Web Link

Many parents have protested but seems like the district authorities and most of the board members have shut off and are in fact looking at all possible ways to prove that EDM is (at least) still in use in "so many" districts.

Is it an aggressive marketing scheme from the publisher ? The Palo Alto District websites admits as much :

Web Link

I am amazed how intelligent people like educators could be mass hypnotized by a marketing scheme.

It just doesn't make sense.

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